Dave Reid

Wells Street Two-Way Conversion Work Has Begun

By - Aug 4th, 2011 10:00 am
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee
New Stoplights on Wells St.

New Stoplights on Wells St.

Wasting no time, the Department of Public Works has already began work on the conversion of Wells Street to a two-way street throughout downtown.  In particular, new street lights have gone up at the intersections of Milwaukee Street and Wells Street, and Jefferson Street and Wells Street

The city is evidently moving quickly to insure the street is ready before the Wisconsin Avenue bridge closing, because this two-way conversion will provide better access to multiple businesses in Westown that would otherwise be difficult to access during the closing.  This short-term need is certainly important and was the impetus for the change, but the long-term need is just as significant.

Eliminating this multi-lane, one-way expressway will improve downtown Milwaukee’s pedestrian and retail environment, while also improving access for people driving to their destinations.  As has been seen after the conversion of E. State Street, it will significantly reduce the rampant speeding that occurs regularly on Wells St. which will make the street more comfortable to cross and walk along.  Additionally, two-way streets eliminate the need to endlessly circle the block, while improving accessibility for people unfamiliar with the area.  Further, in conjunction with lower traveling speeds it will improve visibility to businesses along Wells Street making the street more desirable to retail locations, and in turn to pedestrians.  All are good reasons to consider converting the street back to two-ways, and when it’s all put together it is a simple choice, Wells Street can be oriented for speeding and a handful peak travel days or for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and business owners daily use.

Although there is a small possibility the street could revert to one-way travel after the Wisconsin Avenue bridge rebuild completion, it is more likely people will forget it was ever a one-way street.  Much of  State Street, Milwaukee Street, Jackson Street, Van Buren Street and Broadway have been converted to two-way streets in the past twenty years, and all have helped to improve downtown Milwaukee’s built environment, for the pedestrian, business owner, and even the person behind the wheel.  Seeing that none of these streets have been converted back to one-way streets, it is more than likely that Wells Street will have the same success.


11 thoughts on “Wells Street Two-Way Conversion Work Has Begun”

  1. CJ says:

    Are they doing a conversion on the entirety of the one way section of the street?

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @CJ The section from 6th to the lakefront is being converted to two-ways, which I believe will finish it off.

  3. Eric says:

    Next up: Prospect and Farwell?

    Though I hope these two have remained as one-way streets so they can accommodate the streetcar on its route to UWM.

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Eric You know Prospect and Farwell most likely won’t be changing anytime soon. And with the streetcar you’re right they’ll probably just leave them… To me the next ones are finishing Broadway, Jackson, Van Buren, and then going back and finishing State… (they are all partial conversions now)

  5. CJ says:

    I really hope that Farwell and Prospect aren’t on the conversion list. While I believe in slowing down traffic and reducing confusion, I do think some arteries are need to get flow traffic through the city. These streets get very crowded at peak times and the traffic would be terrible if they were converted to two way.

  6. Jesse Hagen says:

    I agree with CJ, there aren’t alot of alternate routes and traffic is usually congested enough that speeds aren’t too high.

    I usually take the bus or drive this route… but bike it too.

  7. Jeramey Jannene says:

    As a Prospect Avenue resident (1900 block), and a fan of two-way streets (and walkable neighborhoods) I’m torn on the issue. Switching to two-ways on those streets has issues, which would almost certainly guarantee the loss of the heavily used bike lanes. Delivery trucks of all kinds would become a legitimate issue with the streets being two-ways (given the population density, lack of loading zones, and lack of cross streets, as it is now they’re okay. Ultimately I think better utility for all can be derived from the streets, not by making them two-way streets, but by better managing flow in certain sections.

    A speed study should be conducted on the streets at some point. The stretch starting at Lafayette and going north-bound to North Avenue is undoubtedly where the most speeding is seen on Prospect Avenue. Similar speeds are often seen on Farwell heading from Kenilworth to Lafayette. Why? My guess is that density drops here (absence of street wall, pedestrians), as well as the lack of stop lights for an extended stretch. Simply adding a light at the Windsor on both Farwell and Prospect would slow speeds (timing it to allow cars to proceed through all the lights at safe speeds without having to stop). Developing the Prospect Mall parking lot would also be a significant help.

    Eventual streetcar construction could reduce unsafe speeding and render this whole discussion void.

    My two cents.

  8. Kel says:

    If they ever converted Prospect and Farwell into 2-way streets, it would probably eleminate lots of parking, wouldn’t it?

  9. Dave Reid says:

    @Kel First I don’t see those going two-ways anytime soon. Secondly, no it would not eliminate lots of parking.

  10. McGee says:

    I know that the transportation world doesn’t revolve around cyclists, but as a cyclist I’m really disappointed in the first week of the Wells street conversion. Hopefully, design changes can be implemented down the road, but for now, I consider the street a virtual death trap for cyclists. Four points of concern in particular, all East bound.
    1) 6th street to 4th. The traffic used to shift left at the 6th street light, and the bumpouts in front of the convention center guaranteed that no cars would be in the far lane. There is massive speeding and limited visibility due to the overpass. Now, the cars are all routed to the right, into the cyclists, and stopped cars/delivery trucks every day have forced me to go into high speed traffic to go around them.
    2) 3rd to Plankinton. Not bad yet, but expect massive amounts of cars turning up from Wisconsin when the bridge closes. Limited space means they pull half way into the lane and then stop in the path of oncoming cyclists.
    3) Water to Broadway. The bike lane is now the turn lane and there is no room for cyclists to avoid the crush of cars coming up and turning right. Pick your poison – speeding cars through the intersection or cars taking a right turn in front of you.
    4) Van Buren to Lakefront. A three 1/2 block bike lane ends abruptly and traffic narrows substantially as Wells street approaches the lakefront. Between the Coach USA buses, and the parked cars, there is simply no room between the traffic and the cars parked along side of Wells in this stretch. It’s worse as you approach Prospect.

    Simply put, this redesign couldn’t have been worse for cyclists. It may or may not have the intended benefits to other aspects of transportation and the local business community, but I now consider this street to be one of the most dangerous in the city.

  11. Dave Reid says:

    @McGee I’ll have to ride it again to get a better feel for 1-3, but to me the 4 section is fine. That said clearly it will require refinement

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us